A Monster CallsA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was expecting emotional intensity and some brilliance (remember this is the man who brought us The Knife of Never Letting Go, which is also emotionally intense and absolutely brilliant) but I wasn’t quite sure what form it would take. This is a much sparer story than the Chaos Walking trilogy, which was actually a relief and, I think, one of the story’s strengths.

The dialogue is also perfectly spare – the characters leave so much out and say so much more by doing so. The mythological and fairy tale aspects felt suited to the story on a real gut level, which is something I rarely see. The first two stories the monster tells, in particular, had so much wonderful gray area in them. I didn’t get the same punch from the third story, but by then I was past really caring.

And the illustrations! I would say they set the mood for the story, but the words have already done that. Maybe one could say that they magnify the mood. The style isn’t one I’d normally be drawn to, but it’s right for this story.

If you’re anything like me, have a hanky handy at the end. Family members may express concern about your well-being. That said, I never felt like Ness went for the cheap, easy, tug-on-your-heartstrings moments, instead hitting much deeper notes.

Somebody needs to slap an award sticker on this one – I don’t care if it’s Newbery, Printz or both.

Source: my public library (where I stuck it in the Young Teen, ie middle school, section but it could just as easily be shelved in Young Adult/Teen).

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I wrote this review before ALA’s award announcements on January 23rd…and I was sad that it wasn’t honored by the awards committees. It did make ALSC’s list of Notable Children’s Books.

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